Cakes with class
By LEA SCHNEIDER
May 25 2005
Decorating instructor teaches the art of frosting desserts in Hobby Lobby course
KATIE MORGAN/The Jackson Sun - ABOVE: Students gather around Darren Dickerson to see how to make a daisy out of icing during a recent cake decorating class at Hobby Lobby. TOP: Erica Parker concentrates on making a daffodil.
Slip beyond the greeting cards, rows of beads and bandanas, and you'll find you need to speak a whole new language.
One by one, the students slip into the classroom at the back of Hobby Lobby Creative Center in Jackson. They begin to unpack bins, boxes and things that look like fishing tackle boxes. All the while, words like fondant, tips and color flow are bantered about.
It is about ten minutes until six o'clock, and almost everyone is early to Darren Dickerson's level two cake decorating class. The Wilton method instructor has given a lot of homework, and it takes a lot of lugging to get it into the classroom.
''You can come and not be prepared, but your icing will be coming out of the bag and you will be licking and licking,'' says Linda Ramsey, who is unpacking along with her sister-in-law, Linda Riddle. The two started a baking business, called The Family Bakers, and are honing up on decorating skills.
Across the way, Jane Tyler looks like the instructor in her crisp white coat. She unrolls a white towel and lines up jars of brightly colored frostings. They are topped with wet paper towels, to add moisture, as well as plastic wrap and foil.
''I came just for fun as I like to cook and wanted to learn to decorate,'' she says.
Despite the jars of sugary color flow icing, she says she rarely eats any. ''Maybe every once in awhile.''
Tyler calls it frosting while Dickerson chats and says 'frostin.'
''By the time you get the colors prepared, you are calling it a lot of things other than frosting and icing,'' Tyler says, laughing.
Holding up a jar of white-looking paste, Ramsey worries if her color flow should be that thick. Dickerson, flexing his hand, tells her to start working her muscles. Squeezing out the frosting with control, called piping, takes a lot of muscle. The cakes are decorated with three thicknesses of frosting: thick for decorations that need to stand up, thin to frost the cake and medium for the borders.
Just a couple of minutes before six, Laura Butler, a sixth grader at St. Mary's School arrives with her grandmother, Mary Butler. They begin to set up their station.
Mary tells the classmates how Laura had decorated a birthday cake for her mother with clusters of grapes and leaves all around the bottom and down one side.
''I wanted to learn to decorate a cake,'' Laura says of taking the classes. ''I want to start a business decorating cakes.''
Dickerson chats with the group, telling them they will be starting with apple blossoms. He has just come from his day job as a computer programmer. His wife, Lisa, teaches cake decorating too.
''I am logical during the day and creative at night,'' he says.
''Actually, I was in here picking up something and they were offering a free student kit with a class and I got hooked on it. My daughter's birthday was coming up,'' he says of how he got started decorating cakes two years ago.
There are three levels of classes. In course one, students learn the very basics of decorating and produce a clown cake. Today's class, a level two class, is working to learn all the different flower shapes so they can produce a basket cake filled with sugary blossoms. The third level teaches fondant, a sugar paste for decorating, wedding cakes and more flowers.
Erica Parker, who wants to open her own bakery, unpacks her jars of frosting onto a pale green towel.
''This is your best friend,'' Dickerson says, holding up a cake spatula.
To begin the apple blossoms, those without pink frosting begin adding color to their white icing. Discussions of the shade of pink of an apple blossom ensue.
''My hand is tired,'' Parker says, trying to beat the stiff concoction.
''I'll never complain about the price of decorated cakes,'' Mary says, shaking her head.
As the stirring gets harder and harder, Ramsey jokes she is sending her husband in her place next week, and Riddle says she is sending her daughter. They begin filling paper cones with the pink frosting as Dickerson instructs them to use a No. 101 tip. Each decorator has a selection of metal tips through which the frosting is squeezed.
Getting out of their folding chairs, the group gathers around Dickerson's table as he begins to demonstrate the apple blossom.
Wiping his frosting tip clean, Dickerson takes a pattern out for the apple blossom. He places the small drawing on what looks like the large head of a nail. He covers the pattern with little square of wax paper. When students peer through the paper, the pattern is evident.
''Turn your hand at a 45 degree angle. Make five little mouse ears. Squeeze. Turn. Come back and squeeze,'' he says, rotating the nail head as he pipes on the pink petals. Each petal indeed looks like a mouse ear but as a whole becomes a flower. Grabbing some yellow frosting, he adds five tiny dots in the center.
''Is that all there is to it?'' Mary asks.
''You haven't tried it yet,'' quips someone in the group as everyone laughs.
Back in their chairs, everyone begins to try their own mouse ears.
''It's too thick,'' complains Tyler, wiping off her icing with a finger and eating it before starting over.
''There you go. That is not too bad for a first one,'' Dickerson says on her second attempt.
He goes from student to student, giving each attention. He places his hand over Laura's to give her a little extra strength to squeeze the sticky frosting.
Down the table, Riddle is busy squeezing and chanting, ''little mouse ear, little mouse ear.'' The room gets quiet as everyone concentrates.
''Mine's not too good,'' Mary says.
''It is still pretty,'' Dickerson says. ''The more you do, the easier it is.''
''After this class, you will be surprised at how many friends you have,'' Dickerson says of the number of cakes people will want.
It's 6:30 p.m. and there is still a bouquet full of flowers left to learn.
Cake decorating classes
Wilton cake decorating classes are taught by Darren or Lisa Dickerson, Wilton method instructors, of Dickerson Cakes.
Location: Hobby Lobby Creative Center classroom, 57 Carriage House Drive, Jackson
Cost: () with June special. Regular price () .
Register: In person with any Hobby Lobby cashier
Web: www.dickersoncakes. itgo.com
Phone: (731) 660-7141
June course offerings
Course 1: (Lisa) Starts Thursday, June 2, from 6 to 8 p.m.
Course 1: (Darren) Starts Saturday, June 4, from 11:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.
Course 2: (Darren) Starts Saturday, June 4, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Course 2: (Darren) Starts Tuesday, June 7, from 6 to 8 p.m.
Course 3: (Darren) Starts Monday, June 6, from 6 to 8 p.m.